Study 3: Waste-to-energy in the news

Research Problem and Objectives

The portrayal of waste-to-energy (WTE) development in the Canadian news media remains largely unexplored in spite of its growing relevance to municipal waste management strategies. This research takes an inductive approach to examine how WTE is portrayed in Canadian newspapers through both content and discourse analyses. Initial analyses may focus specifically on portrayal of WTE in Ontario where our case study work is being conducted. We aim to shed light on the policy making processes associated with realizing waste’s potential for energy generation by exploring the dominant themes, narratives, and discursive strategies employed by various stakeholders as well as the evolution of ideas as they evolve over time in the news media. This study will contribute mainly to project objective 2, but also to objectives 1 and 4.


For the content analysis, Canadian newspapers will be searched using Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, Canadian Newsstand and similar databases from the first available publication on WTE to present day. The aim is to provide a comprehensive overview of WTE coverage in the news media, including the names and types of newspapers; types of WTE discussed; temporal and spatial trends in coverage (e.g., places with high coverage); types of articles written; context of articles (e.g., type of WTE event); main themes (e.g., barriers to implementation, community incineration concerns); stakeholders cited (e.g., municipal official, resident); and stakeholder positions on WTE. The output of this work will be largely quantitative focused on frequencies, tables and charts.

The discourse analysis will go into more depth to identify the dominant ideas, representations and narratives associated with WTE (e.g. as a resource, hazard or waste management solution). This part of the research will examine: how ideas, representations and narratives have changed over time, including support and opposition; how they compare between regions; and their implications for WTE uptake. Whereas the content analysis focuses on surface content and keywords, the discourse analysis will be much more interpretive and focused on conceptual development.

Expected Contributions

The purpose of this work is to give a sense of the "lay of the land" in terms of how waste-to-energy is being portrayed in the media. The work will be of interest to a wide array of waste policy actors including: waste managers, sustainability advocates, politicians, residents and academics. By understanding the processes and structures that have shaped existing decisions we hope to enhance dialogue and highlight routes for more sustainable decision-making and practices around waste and energy. Further, this research will make substantive contributions to the geographies of waste literature and theoretical development listed in project objective 4.

Learn More

To learn more about this study please contact us, or sign up to receive notification of updates.


ReWaRP findings published in RCR Journal

People will divert less if they know their discards are going to an energy from waste facility. See the Publications secttion of the mobilize page to find a links to the article and to the paper. 08 April 2020See More

ReWaRP interviewed by CBC

The CBC interviewed Virginia Maclaren about diverting plastics and the use of waste-to-energy facilities. She cites our study findings and the Waste Management paper. See the mobilize page to find a links to the article and to the paper. 21 September 2018See More

Workshop presentation files posted The workshop was held last Thursday with 25 in-person participants and an additional 10 participating online via the webinar feed. We have posted the presentation files as pdf's, on the mobilize page 13 June 2016See More

Workshop/Webinar On June 9 we are hosting a workshop "Waste-to-Energy Policy and Perceptions Research Results" in Toronto. The goal is to bring together key stakeholders and share research findings for feedback and set an agenda for ongoing research and stakeholder interaction. Invitations have been sent out already. If you would like to participate and have not been sent an invite please email us: 19 May 2016See More

Study 2 first survey results published The data from waves 1 and 2 of the survey for study 2 will soon appear in the journal Waste Management 29 Feb 2016See More

Wave 3 of WtE survey mailed out A third wave of our survey has been mailed out to track longitudinal views on WtE, diversion and waste facilities. 13 Nov 2015See More

Researchers attend advisory committee meeting - On Sept. 30 Yvonne and Jennifer attended the Energy from Waste - Waste Management Advisory Committee (EFW-WMAC)to learn more about facility governance. 19 Oct 2014See More

Survey on waste-to-energy and diversion behaviours - This summer we sent out a postage-paid mail-back questionnaire to a random sample of residents living: i) near the Algonquin Power facility in Brampton, ii) near the Durham York Energy Centre, and iii) in Toronto. 15 Sept 2014See More

Solid Waste Management Partnerships Workshop - Virginia and Jamie participated in the Solid Waste Management Partnerships Workshop hosted by the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy. 24 June 2014See More

Alltreat farms - The research team paid a visit to the Alltreat composting facility in Arthur Ontario. 8 October 2013See More

Yvonne Ho - joins the research team. She will be conducting a survey based study for her 4th year... 5 September 2013See More

Fieldtrips – Yvonne, Virginia and Jamie visit Toronto’s Greenbin facility and the Algonquin Power waste... 24 July 2013See More

Yvonne R. has begun fieldwork for her PhD – conducting face-to-face in-depth interview with waste policy stakeholders. 2 July 2013See More